Red Planet (2000)

In the next thirty years mankind will face its biggest challenge. Population will spiral out of control, resources will begin to dwindle and pollution will start to kill the Earth. How will we react? In Red Planet the answer will be to look to the skies and plan to colonise Mars. The story opens with theses thoughts. The answer is provided by trying to terraform Mars. Probes have been getting sent to Mars for a number of years. They contain algae that will thrive and produce Oxygen, thus enabling human life to be sustained. All is going well until the O2 levels start to drop unexpectedly.  A team is hastily pulled together and ship is prepared to investigate the issue on Mars. The team is a mixture of scientists and pilots. Unusually there is no overt human military presence in the crew. There is however a military style robot capable of a large variety of operations including combat. All goes well until they reach the planet. A solar flare hits the ship, disabling it,  and the crew minus the captain are forced to head to the surface. The captain remains to try to save the ship.  The landing is not smooth. With one member of the team close to death after the descent, off course and effectively lost and with limited air, the crew must try to reach the safety of the on planet habitat.

The film explores the issues facing humans on earth in the twenty-first century. It takes the same view as is currently being held globally with regard to finding new sources of energy to replace the dwindling supplies of oil and gas. The current accepted path is to find a new source to exploit rather than addressing the issues and making some hard choices. To this end a global effort is undertaken to make Mars a viable option. It is a very Hollywood version of a global effort. The crew consists of a female captain (Carrie-Anne Moss) and five males, all American except for token Brit Terrence Stamp. Not exactly representing the whole world then. The female captain is a strong presence at the start and during the initial problems but when it comes down to it in the last act it is all about getting her man, which is a bit of a disappointment. In fact all of the characters are a bit stereotypical and could be fitted into any run of the mill Sci-Fi story. From the over-confident Co pilot (Benjamin Bratt), reckless left field scientists (Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore) to the more philosophical musings of the aforementioned Terence Stamp the parts fit into the story to produce the expected outcome.

There are no real surprises at all. That is not to say that the film is bad. It looks great. The effects are all good and the robot, AMEE. looks very impressive. It moves along at a reasonably brisk pace which is good as it doesn’t linger too much on some of the dodgy science explanations or the more obvious plot holes. I can think of worse ways to spend ninety minutes. Entertaining.

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